I started my read-along of the book of James today. I’ve read this book several times and there’s always something fresh to be seen. One thing that never changes is that I’m always appalled by one of its opening verses, one that will be very familiar to you if you’ve read this book before, or even have been around church for a while. You probably know it…. Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of every kind.
Or maybe you’ve heard it and a few other verses like this:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
WHAT!? Joy? When I face trials? Like when life is unfair and bad things happen to good people (even if I think that’s me) and when I lose a bunch of money in the stock-market and when my friend’s daughter gets cancer and when my job demands too much of me, and when a relationship gets broken and when people say things about me that are hurtful and untrue (or true) and when I just can’t take another minute of it all? That’s when I’m supposed to count all those things up and claim that their sum is still joy?
I like how The Message translation puts it:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
So, not only am I to consider my trials a joy whenever they come at me, but as they come at me from all sides. And furthermore, it’s going to be trials of all kinds! And that really is what it feels like sometimes, isn’t it, friends? Everything’s coming at you from all sides at all times.
Consider it pure joy, a sheer GIFT, even, that you GET to go through this junk. I love that next line, because it’s really true: We all know that under pressure, our faith-life really does get forced out into the open and its true colors are shown. In fact they spill right out into the open, where everyone who was already watching and those who hadn’t before noticed get to see who this Jesus really is to you and if He can actually withstand a bit of shaken ground, or even a full-blown earthquake.
What does James tell us to show?? Joy. That joy can still be found right in the midst of those crazy life-happenings. That moment (or 50) that is just about to be the very last straw…we can rest in real joy. And doesn’t that have something to do with peace that transcends all understanding? Well that may be for another time…
Many more thoughts on this book and believe me, there’s much more application for me to do. Right now I’m sleeping and I have a lot more processing to do before I post on my next thought from chapter 1 of James.
Sweet, joyous dreams to you, fellow readers.